2020 Summarised

A recollection of this year’s events from my perspective.

by Subhomoy Haldar

Reading time: 6 minutes

TL;DR

Too Long; Didn’t Read
2020 was the year of mishaps.
Everything moved online. Somethings improved because of this, and others did not.
I missed out on MTTS but I contributed to VLang during the summer.
I learned about PWA development and am fully invested in it at the moment.

The Year Of Mishaps

A seated masked man holding a burning newspaper.
Reading the news in 2020 - Photo by Ashutosh Sonwani on Pexels

I was going to write a brief summary of the various events that took worldwide, but I quickly realised that it is a massive undertaking. Instead I shall direct your attention to the Wikipedia Article on 2020: ⟨wiki-2020⟩. Overall, the year was mostly unpleasant and most people were spending their days at home. Being unable to go outside severely affected the mental well-being of a significant proportion of the population. Several office jobs seamlessly transitioned to their online, work-from-home versions. Dependency on essential workers in healthcare, logistics, and other sectors was greatly increased because people were ordering everything online including food, electronics, stationary, clothing, etc.

Here are some of the things that happened to me personally.

College Life And UNESQUO

Offline To Online

I returned home and left BIT early in order to spend Holi at home. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had started to become a worldwide phenomenon. My father pre-emptively asked me to skip my flight back and sure enough, orders were issued to evacuate the college. All the students left in a hurry and in the middle of the semester. All the institute activities ground to a halt and there was a long break before we had any official word from the institute. Initially, people hoped to wait out the pandemic and resume life as if nothing had happenned. Unfortunately, that did not happen. BIT (like all other colleges) was forced to move its infrastructure online. Professors were asked to conduct classes via online classrooms and perform assessments based on online tests and submission of assignments. My sixth semester of college ended abruptly.

Becoming A Graduate Student

The grades were announced and it was probably the best score I had ever received in my life. EX’s in all subjects except one. I can list a few reasons behind why everyone had a stellar semester:

  1. The assessments were designed as open-book, long-form examinations. The deadlines were also sufficient. Consequently, the students were able to write well and under reduced time pressure. This positively affected the quality of the answers as well as their evaluation.
  2. Majority of the college’s resources were left unused, including the labs, the supply for the hostels, stationary, and several other things. Consequently, the students demanded a reduction in fees for the new semester owing to the fact that we were paying for resourced that we will not be using. In an attempt to pacify the younglings, the administration decided to liberally grade all the students with the hope of securing as much of the tuition fees as possible. It was a success.

And that is how I became a graduate student:

Unceremoniously.

Promotion

Additionally, it was time for our UNESQUO club seniors to hand over their responsibilities to us. I was one of the general secretaries in the session 2019-20. I stepped up to become the president for this session. (This particular event had a few more nuances, but that is a discussion for another time. Feel free to have a chat with me about this.)

This year turned out to be the especially stressful and not as rewarding. The main reason I believe is that we miss the socialising that happens after the events conclude. The physical separation separates us mentally as well. However, we tried out best to keep the spirits up and the members engaged. I’ve realised that imposter syndrome’s always present. However, it is one of the indicators that we are taking on greater challenges and are not afraid to fail. Being self-aware of one’s shortcomings is important as it motivates you to continuously improve yourself. Ultimately, I am happy that I became the president as a graduate student. I am not complacent, though. I will do everything in my power to take this club to a better state than it was.

Giving Up My Material Possessions

Leaving for home early, before the evacuation had been ordered meant that I had packed relatively lightly. I had left a lot of my belongings in my hostel room. And there they lie (hopefully), collecting dust as the months go by. While it is true that these possessions have a certain material value, their sentimental value far outweighs that. For instance, I had designed the black sleeve raglan shirts for UNESQUO. It was perhaps the slickest apparel the campus had seen in a long while. And of course, I leave it behind in my hostel room. I have no idea if it is intact right now. 😫

Here’s a photo to illustrate what I mean. I’m at the end towards the right-hand side. I was the general secretary back then (in 2019).

UNESQUO members wearing the black-and-white raglan shirts.
Slickest apparel in BIT! Photo by PSoc, BIT Mesra

Missing Out On MTTS

After my second year (fourth semester) had concluded, I had been lucky enough to attend Level O of the Mathematics Training and Talent Search Programme (MTTS) ⟨mtts⟩ which was organised at IISER, Kolkata. It was an intense four-week programme that awakened my love for Mathematics. Partly because of the company I had there and partly because of the excellent instructors and their novel way of teaching us. I am not exaggerating when I say that attending MTTS made me realise that I had taken the right decision to enrol in this Mathematics and Computing course; it is because I love both of these subjects and not in isolation.

Group photo of MTTS participants and instructors in 2019.
MTTS 2019 was a turning point in my life when I started to appreciate Mathematics fully.

(In the picture, I am seated in the first row, near the middle. I have a cream-coloured full sleeve roundneck shirt on.)

Naturally, I was overjoyed when I received the acceptance mail in February for the second year in a row for MTTS. I was all set to immerse myself in pure math at IISER, Trivandam for another four weeks. However, the pandemic happened and I was left without any activities to keep myself occupied that summer. In addition to that, our assignments were due when the online lectures were scheduled, so I had to skip them. I wasn’t very happy about it.

Programming Stuff

The V Language

Fortunately, I found some things to do to keep myself busy. One of these was to start programming in earnest again. Our college had given us access to Coursera courses for the summer. I utilised that opportunity to finish the GoLang Specialization: ⟨golang-spec⟩. Soon after that, I found V Lang: ⟨vlang⟩, and decided to contribute to it. I joined the Discord server ⟨v-discord⟩, lurked around and took in the scene. It was full of enthusiasm. I gradually created new issues for problems I discovered. People were receptive to them. Eventually, I took on the task of making small changes to the codebase. One thing led to another, and I ended up making some moderate contributions ⟨pulls⟩ to the language.

Progressive Web Apps

I was happy with the progress I had made on V. I decided to take a break and work on something else. Conicidentally, I was working on re-designing this website. In the process of fixing the design and adding new features, I learned a substantial amount of Web Development. I was wondering if I can take this expertise and apply it somewhere else. Native desktops apps are always a pain to implement. And the solutions that exist are not cross-platform. The ones that are cross-platform did not catch my fancy. Eventually, I came across Progressive Web Apps (PWA). These are essentially website that work offline. With the advent of Web Assembly (WASM), we can now write great apps using HTML, CSS (I prefer SCSS), JS (or TS in my case) and deploy it as an app for all devices that support web browsers.

In order to learn this technology fully, I decided to implement TicTacToe as a PWA (twice): ⟨tictactoe⟩. After reading a lot of articles and debugging a lot of edge cases, I’m now fairly confident that I can turn any website into a PWA.

$\frac{\mathcal{zero}}{\text{ZERO}}$

In the spirit of applying my newfound knowledge of PWAs, I have decided to implement a multi-purpose math tool as a PWA. This is a joint effort by Vaishnudebi and I. Currently, it is a work in progress, but it is one of the bigger projects that I have undertaken. Stay tuned for more updates on this endeavour!

Conclusion

It really has been a tough year for everyone. I tried my best to make use of my time as efficiently as possible. I’m not sure if I have been successful in this endeavour. However, I am certain that I have grown as an individual and I look forward to further development.

Resources

  1. 2020 on Wikipedia↗ - Contains a mostly complete account of all the events that have taken place in 2020. Be advised: it is painful to read. ⟨wiki-2020⤴⟩
  2. Mathematics Training and Talent Search↗ - An intense 4-week training programme for aspiring undergraduate mathematicians. ⟨mtts⤴⟩
  3. GoLang Specialization↗ - Highly recommended: the instructor does a great job explaining the concepts and the exercises are challenging enough to ensure that you learn the language well. ⟨golang-spec⤴⟩
  4. The V Programming Language↗ - It has a syntax similar to GoLang but it has several compelling features like the absence of null, great performance, and an active community. ⟨vlang⤴⟩
  5. The V Programming Language Discord Server↗ - I lurk around here and make contributions from time-to-time. ⟨v-discord⤴⟩
  6. Pull Requests by Me↗ - This query returns the list of contributions I made to the V Programming Language. ⟨pulls⤴⟩
  7. TicTacToe v2↗ - Implementation of the classic TicTacToe game as a Progressive Web App ⟨tictactoe⤴⟩

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